Page 331 - Gay Pioneers: How Drummer Shaped Gay Popular Culture 1965-1999
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Jack Fritscher              Chapter 13                       313


             John Embry’s health problems caused a pivotal change in his physical and
             psychological demeanor in mid-to-late 1978 even as the quiet onset of his
             unseeable colon cancer took its toll before being diagnosed and treated with
             surgery on March 16, 1979. Autocratic as a publisher before his surgery, and
             then dodging death, he felt so entitled to “live life large” that during his long
             recuperation, he became so increasingly difficult to work with that the staff
             was glad he was mostly AWOL from the office for five whole months during
             Spring and Summer.
                When he finally returned to work, he sputtered and fumed with faint
             praise because his ego was somehow wounded to find that Drummer had
             become new and improved with an inflected editorial change, and a huge
             rise in subscriptions during the long production time he was out of the pic-
             ture. No good deed goes unpunished. He was jealous of his own staff who
             had protected his business and erotic interests and changed Drummer from
             a local LA publication into a San Francisco magazine with international
             appeal. He had a literal “gut reaction” reflected in his rhetoric in his writ-
             ing. He combined metaphors of bondage and illness. He revealed his own
             physical and psychological state, as well as inadvertently his bad behavior,
             only six months after his colon cancer surgery on his knotted-up guts. Safely
             disembodied in the hollow voice of his alter-ego ‘Robert Payne,” Embry edi-
             torialized, preaching without irony, about psychosomatic illness and karma
             in the “In Passing” column in Drummer Rides Again (November 1979). In
             his exact words:

                Being “all tied up”...can refer to various parts of the body and
                psyche. A stomach “all tied up” in knots can denote nervousness,
                apprehension, or just indigestion. Being “tied up” can keep one
                from dinner, or coming to the phone, or missing an appointment
                [or showing up at the Drummer office]. But the being “tied up”
                we are dealing with at this moment, Gentle Reader, is an internal
                constipation [sic] that all of us suffer from....We get what we give.
                And usually deserve what we get. Next time you are “all tied up,”
                let it be literally, not emotionally. (Page 62)


             Peddling this advice to others, Embry explained how and why his treatment
             of the Drummer staff and the business had escalated so hysterically. His can-
             cer may have been caused by the homophobia of the LAPD. Under tremen-
             dous stress from the 1976 Drummer Slave Auction arrests that led to years
             of court dates and costs, he was forced to flee LA, the city he loved, and to
             set up shop in San Francisco where he tried to “tie up” us Drummer workers


               ©Jack Fritscher, Ph.D., All Rights Reserved—posted 03-16-2017
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